Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Buttons! Buttons! Everywhere!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New York, New York!

Last week, I finished a long work day on Friday, and boarded a red-eye flight for Newark, NJ. Now why, you might ask, did I do something like that? I know, it's like going from a slum to a ghetto, but it was not without purpose. Being a 1K (100,000) mile flier, you'd think I'd had the best seat on the plane. Continental saw differently. I was given the "little people" treatment.You've all been there. Back of the plane where I swear they put eight seats across the back not the regular six. My seatmates were three little Asian women squished into the two seats next to me and they giggled the entire way to New Jersey.

After arriving into New Jersey at 6:15am, I had a car pick me up for the drive to Manhattan. Of course, I hadn't checked the weather, and no surprise,found myself slepping through ankle deep slush and snow to the awaiting car. The driver was an old man in a big Town Car that evidently had bald tires. For the next hour we careened down the highway barely able to stay on the pavement for most of the ride. All of that doing less miles per hour than I can walk to the mailbox.

I arrived at the hotel in one piece. It was near 8 o'clock. The Writer's Digest Conference I'd decided to attend at the last minute was to start around 9am. True to my luck as of late, my room was no where near ready, and I was relegated to take a shower in the tiny "health club" in the basement of the high rise. So here I am, trying my darndest to make myself presentable in the dingy basement of a sweat-smelling gym whose "amenities" included a well used bar of soap, complete with the long dark hairs of a stranger, and a one watt bulb in which to see my shadow as I tried to apply makeup.

I sat through three decent classes before the 3 hour "pitch" session, whereby all of the 600 wanna-be-best-selling writers stood in line just to have a chance to share an abridged version of their manuscript with an agent, editor or publisher. There were about 60 agents, etc. in attendance, so you can see what a chaotic event it was. Four rooms, 60 agents, 600 writers. Do the math. We stood outside the four rooms with a list of the agents we hoped would request our manuscripts. At exactly two p.m., the doors opened and we all ran toward the first ahent we hoped to see like cattle drive with each of scouring the room as we ran, ent on our list. Sort of looked like a The cost, a whopping almost $400 for the day, proved to be money well spent. Out of eight agent visits, all eight agents asked for more of the manuscript, a good showing for any writer!

With that said, I send my kudos to The Writers Digest Conference, and all of the agents who sat at those tables throughout those grueling three hours. A special shout-out to Rachel Dugas from Talcott Notch Literary Agency. That young woman kept the biggest smile on her face and every writer who left her booth felt like a million bucks!

A thorn goes to the writer who shouted at an agent that "It's not fair! You said you took children's stories! I waited in line for over 25 minutes!" The agent, whom I will not name, tried to explain she looks for children's series (more than one book.) The writer stormed off leaving that poor agent a little soured, but who could blame her? A lesson to new writers....be polite, no matter what. You don't have the knowledge base to do anything but listen.

And finally, to all of the writers in attendance....Wow! Way to go! You and I are living our dream! Now get out there, polish those manuscripts and get them off to the agents that requested your stuff!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We are all Novel Travelers

This has been an interesting week so far. After my full-time job is done, I've been polishing up my book, gathering up my courage and setting out for yet another adventure! I'll be on the road for work this week, Vegas, no less. Sin city, as if I didn't have enough of my own sin to worry about. I picked up the book by a Pulitzer Prize winner,Larry McMurtry, called The Desert Rose,written in 1983. The main character Harmony is both tough and tender as an ageing Las Vegas showgirl. Here's a cut from the book.

"When she turned off the pavement onto the bumpy dirt road Harmony looked back at the Strip, eight miles away. It looked so miniature, like a wonderful toy place, with all the lights still on … It was one of her favourite things, to turn onto her own road with the air smelling so good and be able to see the Strip, with the Trop up at one end and the Sahara at the other, and besides that have the sun coming up just as she got home. With sights like that to see every day, who could complain?"

Trying to follow a novel I'm reading is turning into quite a good time. On airplanes, I have a ton of time to read. I mark up my books, circling locations and street names, restaurants and tourist attractions and then when I arrive, if I have any time, I try to find them. It makes for interesting travel. Now you see why the name change on the blog.

Writers are are odd as the characters they create. Think about it. You know you've always wanted to go to Laura Ingall's, little house on the prairie. Because some writer created an image that eventually made it from the written page to the silver screen, you visualized along with the writer what they had in mind as the book was written. The writer gave enough of a description that you could see, smell, feel, and hear the house. That's the beauty of what a writer does.

So off I go! I'll be looking for places and streets that McMurtry made come alive. Should make for a more interesting journey, don't you think?

How about you, have you ever tried to see if a place or person in a novel existed? Share that with us, won't you?

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Wanna Go Home!!!!!

This week is the week I'd normally be at the Wilkes Writing Program residency. For the past 3 years I've made my pilgrimage to Pennsylvania to mingle with some of the nation's most caring and congenial authors, playwrites, screenplay writers and poets.

Now for those of you who have not been to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, (and that doesn't count those who watch "The Office,") Wilkes-Barre is the epitome of Pennsylvania's "Rust Belt." It lacks any true beauty or viable downtown, although it does play host to unsavory buildings and characters, great fodder for those who love the arts.

Every day I would walk, rain, snow, or shine the mile to school leaving the warm arms of the not-so-posh Best Western Genetti Inn to the campus. Rounding the first corner of the brick-lined sidewalk, I'd beeline pass the men and women who hung out at the Quick-Mart smoking cigarettes and begging for cash. At the next corner I'd brush pass what passes as the "theatre," often having to kick away trash and cigar butts that had twirled into the concave entrance during the night. Across the street the circular park filled with the homeless who found there way to a bench during the night, their wakings startling passersby.

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a bagel, then crossed the street for my morning java at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, often the stage for many readings during the week of residency. I always bought a book, not able to leave without knowing I'd somehow contributed to someone's climb to fame. A quick pass through at the alley past Boskov's, a clothing store that demanded my attention at least once a day while in Wilkes-Barre, then a dart through the parking lot to the old building that had been converted to the YMCA and I was just a block away.

The campus of Wilkes University gives off a historical air, one I grew to love, but it was inside those walls where other writers, poets, screenplay writers and playwrites gathered that gladdened me to my soul. I had a cohort whose talent still amazes me and whose recent successes have made me proud. Gail Martin, known to me as "Gray," recently published her wonderful humorous novel, "Don Juan in Hankey, PA," a hilarious romp through the world of a small town opera guild. And others I worked beside, like Amye Archer did us proud with her publication. More to come on other alumni!

What Wilkes does have is an extraordinary gathering of artists from around the nation that gather to give of themselves to wannabe artists like me. Sara Pritchard, my mentor was one of them. She encouraged me as a writer, lifted my spirits when I thought I could never do what she asked of me, and made me laugh at myself.

So today I'm feeling a bit blue knowing that another group of talented people have arrived, and taken our places. I'm here missing all of the interactions that had become such a part of my life. It always felt like home there! Smells and shady characters and litter and all!

Writers are funny like that! We are souls that do our best work alone, but no greater group have I ever met that loved the social aspects of sharing others work! I want to go home:)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012...A New Year...A New Start...A New Blog Name!

It’s a New Year and a new time in my life. Old things have passed away and I am more than ready to let last year go! With that said, I wanted a new name for my website. Coming up with a new website name is tricky. Everyone has an inspiration that leads them to the right name. For some it’s so easy, for others it’s a process they’d rather forget. Here’s how it went for me.

“Honey, I’d like to change my web address to something different than my name, simple. Got any ideas?”
“What’s wrong with your name?” my husband remarks, his hand perched on his bare chest, his body in a steep recline on the Lazy Boy.
“Well, for one thing, no one can spell it.”
“I can spell it.”
“Well then, you’ll be the only person visiting, if you don’t count my family members.”
“That’s about fifty people, all tolled, and that’s not bad,” he says, the left side of his mouth curling into a snarl.
“You’re a big help.”
“Then how about “Where writers wander or where books roam or book traveler or bitty books or travel logger?” His chin points slightly at the cup of coffee on the table beside him, my signal to get it for him.
“Too long. Besides they don’t make sense.” I put the coffee in his hand and plop onto the couch. “Bitty books? Where’d you come up with that?”
“Aw, you wanted something short.”
“Short, but not stupid,” I say, wondering why on earth I’d ever ask for help.
“Then get out your synonym book and look up some words. Maybe you’ll find something there. Try travel or journey.” He puts the mug to his mouth and talks a long drink, the steam rising around his face like a halo.
“Yeah, but I want it to be about writing. Oh, and traveling. Oh, and I want it to be different, and easy to remember. Not too long. Easy to spell. Short, so I can get it on a business card.” I tap my fingers on my knees in thought.
“Not asking for much, are you?” he says, his eyes rolling back into his balding head.
“That’s a novel approach,” I say, mocking him by doing the same thing, my eyes orbiting in disgust.
“Novel!” he screams, jumping from the Lazy Boy. I haven’t seen him move this fast since he retired. “Novel! Isn’t that something writers might understand?” He’s repeating the word over and over. I don’t know if I’m more overcome by the fact that he’s trying so hard to help me or by my amazement of how a grown man can lounge an entire day away in his underwear.
“Honey, that’s good!” I say, not knowing where this is going yet.
“And you travel all the time, right?” By now he’s pacing like a madman, his big hands wiping over his mouth like he’s just sucked the meat off the last leg of a chicken.
“Yes.” I’m still sitting, watching this spectacle unfold. His briefs are riding low on his thin hips, the scars of his double hip replacement acting like arrows to his thighs.
He stops. His hands drop to his side, palms up. It’s the sign of a man with a whole thought.
“I’ve got it!” A smile creases into his face. It’s a beautiful face even after all of these years. “www.noveltravelers.com. It’s simple, it takes in the fact that you travel everywhere and people love to read and then travel to the places they read about to see if they are real, right? And any author, writer, editor, publisher of any repute will understand the “novel” part, right?”
I feel the tingle go up my spine, the feeling I get when something feels right.
“Honey, you’re right! Besides, “novel” can mean something unique, something out of the ordinary, something fresh as well. Good job! Now go put some pants on, will you?”

So that’s how I got the new name for the site. Hope you find it easy to find and to pass on to your friends!

And really? Get that picture out of your mind of my husband in his briefs, will you?